In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Give Moose the damn ball
Joe Torre has already named Randy Johnson the team's Opening Day starter to no one's surprise, but Torre might want to reconsider and give stalwart Mike Mussina the ball, for a gaggle of reasons:

Nepotism: This one's the simplest, so I'll get it out of the way first. With the exception of you-know-who, Moose is the longest tenured pitcher on the regular staff, by far (Tanyon Sturtze has the next longest tenure).

Numbers: Both Moose and Unit have made their share of opening day - oops, my bad, Opening Day - starts, with the following results:

Average per Start

Hmmm, interesting. The per start stats are similar enough, and although the difference in W-L record is sizable, you can attribute that to the pathetic group of players known as the late-90s Orioles. In fact, two of Moose's Opening Day losses came in a games you could easily characterize as spectacular (8 IP, 6 H, 11 K in 1998; 7.2 IP, 5 H, 4 K in 2000), but Moose got a grand total of 2 runs of support in those two starts, taking hard luck losses both times. With almost any other club behind him, Moose would be 5-1 (winning percentage of 83.3) in Opening Day starts.

Unit on the other hand escaped an 5.2 IP, 11 H, 6 R disaster on Opening Day 1998 with a no decision thanks to a nice helping of run support by his Mariner teammates (9 runs in an eventual loss). In reality, he should be sporting a 6-3 record (66.7 winning percentage) on Opening Day. Furthermore, his two losses came in recent years (2003 & 2004), and he's steadily declined the last few years, going from 9 IP to 6.67 to 6 on Opening Day.

Playoffs: Randy likes to start every five days, not every five games. He got into that routine with Arizona, and needless to say it seems to being working damn well for him. If Torre gives Moose the Opening Day start and uses Randy every five days, the Unit's turn will line up perfectly with Game 1 of the playoffs (if he starts Opening Day he lines up to make the start on the final game of the season). Now if there's a situation like last year, meaning the 162nd game is actually meaningful, Johnson could go on three days rest, perfectly fine with me if it's the difference between making the playoffs and not.

But assuming that the last game of the year will be meaningless like it usually is, having Randy set to go in Games 1 and 5 of the ALDS on regular rest is a ginormous advantage. How different would have last year's playoffs gone if Unit was able to start Game 1? Probably a whole lot. Of course, after about a month the rotation is out of whack anyway, so this is likely a moot point.

Logic: As in most cases, simple logistics provides the most compelling argument. Although it's not yet official, Barry Zito is on his way to making his second consecutive Opening Day start for the A's, with boy wonder Rich Harden expected to draw the start the next night. Now anyone who's watched the A's the last 2 seasons like I (no YES network here obviously, so I've settled into watching the surprisingly entertaining A's most nights, except when Mr. Cain is pitching across the Bay) knows 2 things: first, Barry Zito has pitched much better than his numbers indicate, he's still a top tier pitcher in the AL; and secondly, when Rich Harden is healthy, he's as close to unhittable as it gets, capable of dominating any team at any time in any park (just look at some of those headlines and realize the kid isn't even 25 yet, exactly a month younger than me in fact. Damn I feel old.). Don't misconstrue this as a "Randy-stinks-and-Moose-is-the-man" piece, I fully acknowledge Unit being the better pitcher at this point, which is why I want him facing Harden, all the more reason to give Moose the Opening Day nod.

The old adage is that the season is a marathon and not a sprint, but getting off to a hot start out of the gate is one hell of an advantage. If the White Sox didn't start the year 16-4 last April, they most likely would have been overcome by the Indians late in the year, and chances are they'd still be cursed. The Yankees themselves would have been able to breathe a whole lot easier if they didn't start last season 11-19. If a little tinkering with the rotation will give the team the best chance to start 2-0 instead of even 1-1, then I say do it, especially considering Oakland will be there at the end of the year, possibly battling the Yanks for the Wild Card.
Blogger Fred G said...
Let the Moose Start! I agree, Unit will give up two home runs.

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